Before I write more on Rich’s sessions I’d like to go into Mental Illness vs Substance Abuse. This is a real issue and a dangerous one. Mistakes are made frequently when confronted with the unknown. Symptoms are quite similar so hopefully this will help guide you if you need it one day.
When I first struggled with depression I was a 39-year old single father. My moods became erratic and people around me were trying to figure out what was going on. One night where I was particularly down, a friend called because she and others believed my issues were drug related. With my situation this wasn’t the case, but she wanted to come over with a drug detection kit. This was obviously frustrating to hear and hard to deal with. Embarrassing as well.
Believe it or not my friend was trying to help. Anytime someone is worried about you it’s a good thing. In my state I didn’t see the good. I was furious to have to answer to such allegations. I was furious that my responses weren’t being heard. As it turns out she wasn’t the only one who felt drugs was a problem. My sister believed it as well, but she was also the only one protecting me. Like I mentioned earlier it’s a good thing if people are concerned, but the bad news, nobody else cared about what I was saying. Common theme here.
Unknowingly to them, the drug conversations were increasing my desire to no longer be alive.
So why bring this experience up? I’m hoping to bring calm to a storm that only ends up hurting relationships. I would encourage family and friends of someone spiraling out of control to hold off from assuming or judging. Your loved one or friend simply wants to be heard. If you suspect substance abuse ask him/her to spend a day with you. Addicts use. Their behavior and actions will tell you. Still, no judgement or assumptions.
What to look for with substance abuse:
- During your full day with him/her do they excuse themselves to go to the bathroom or excuse themselves a lot? Multiple times in an hour?
- After returning from the bathroom or garage, etc., do you see a spike in their mood? This may occur often after excusing themselves. They leave looking down and sad, return with energy and being up. Again, many times during a day together.
- Don’t go off of irritability, being too hyper or odd movements (i.e. scratching their arm often, tapping fingers). These symptoms alone may signal mental illness.
- Try to explain how you feel about him/her and express concern. Not about anything specific like people said to me. Tell them you’ve noticed some changes that concerns you.
- Ask what you can do to help them. I was yelled at by 4 people that I recall. Yelling with judgement is an awful mix. People weren’t asking me how to help, they accused then talked down to me.
Drug addiction isn’t an automatic sign that a person is bad. They are in a bad situation that those who care can assist with. I knew immediately who really cared.
Please reserve judgement until you have heard and learned all he/she has been through and been diagnosed with. Rule of thumb, do not assume.
I asked a drug and alcohol counselor to go through my past with doctors, hospitals, the law and pharmacies. Going back 10-years I was cleared. I didn’t say anything to my accusers. That was for me in case I need it for later.